northernwalker: (Naamah's Curse cover- prayer hands)
I just reread Laurie Colwin's two cookbooks, Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. She is not the author to go to for complicated, elaborate recipes. But if you want to know how to roast a chicken, make potato pancakes that will melt your arteries or other simple, homely food ideas, grab her books. She writes in the style of M.F.K Fisher, but with her own flair. Each recipe has a story attached. Plus, how can you not love a cookbook author who writes about horrible dinners she has had- and made?
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Did you know Madeleine L'Engle wrote adult fiction? It's not as well-known as her young-adult and children's books, but they're generally good. I just finished rereading two of them, Certain Women and A Severed Wasp.

Certain Women is the story of Emma Wheaton, a noted theater actress and daughter of acclaimed stage actor David Wheaton. She has put her career on hold to spend time with her dying father as he works through his memories and his life, using the parallel of a role he very much wanted to play- biblical King David. Emma also begins to deal with past traumas and learns to let go and look to the future.
I found the biblical interweaving really worked here- David Wheaton's personal life was certainly busy, with eight wives, and the linking of them to biblical counterparts was very effective. I'd definitely recommend this one.

In A Severed Wasp,, sequel to The Small Rain, famed concert pianist Katherine Vigneras returns to New York after having lived for decades in Europe. Now in her seventies, she has just retired from performing, but a chance encounter with an old acquaintence who is now the former Episcopalian Bishop of New York brings her new challenges as she looks back over her life.
The interweaving of memory and present is occasionally confusing, but generally enjoyable. I also enjoyed the reintroduction of characters from other books. The Young Unicorn's Josiah 'Dave' Davidson makes an appearance, all grown up, as does Mimi Oppenheimer from A Winter's Love L'Engle brings people in without shoehorning them or making it feel clunky. Another recommendation.
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Voices in Summer by Rosamund Pilcher.
First read at least 15 years ago- I can recall sitting in my university library down on the second level in December and letting it take me to Cornwall.
Thoughts- I love domestic fiction and this is an old favorite. Pilcher writes so vividly that I can feel the summer sun and taste peaches even in December. Laura Havestock is hoping to have a baby but nature doesn't seem to be cooperating. She's also having marital issues- being a second wife isn't easy, being a second, younger wife is downright difficult at times. She has an operation, but must go stay with her husband's uncle and his wife to recuperate. While she's there, her tense life blossoms into happiness touched with great sorrow.

Scandalous Risks by Susan Howatch. Book 4 in her Starbridge series.
First read +15 years ago.
Thoughts- Howatch wrote two series involving the Church of England. This is from the first series, set in 1963. The Honorable Venetia Flaxton is 26, wealthy and fed up with her boring life. Searching for meaning, she becomes dangerously entangled with her father's dear friend Neville Aysgarth, a married man with seven children who is the dean of the Starbridge Cathedral. One of the fun points of this series is looking at the historical parallels. Aysgarth is modeled on British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith, and Venetia on Venetia Stanley, with whom Asquith was madly in love. Suffice it to say that things didn't end happily for either Venetia, although the fictional one has hope.
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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
First read 2009
Thoughts- I love this book. I have a secret passion for epistolary novels (Daddy Long-Legs and Dear Enemy are old favorites) and this has the light touch which handles serious subjects without making the book preachy. Set in post WWII Britain, writer Juliet Ashton is burned out and ready to write something totally new. Her unexpected correspondence with a founding member of THLAPPPS brings her adventure, a new life and love. This is such a fun book- it makes me happy every time I pick it up.
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Darkling- Yasmine Galenorn. The Otherworld Series
First read three years ago.
Thoughts- I first picked up this series at Darkovercon and I really enjoy it. Yes, it's fantasy fluff with Mary Sues and soft porn, but they're lively and I like the characters. Darkling is the third in the series, which is currently 10 books and a few novellas. It features Menolly, youngest of the D'Artigo sisters, an unwillingly turned vampire who has to take on past demons- both mental and those in the flesh.

The Bombshell Manual of Style- Lauren Stover
First read 4 years ago.
Thoughts- This is a frothy and fun discourse on the glamour girl actresses of the 30's, 40's and 50's. Their clothing, reading choices, favorite music and personalities are all dissected in a lively style. This book always makes me want to dress up, so it's a good choice for holiday reading. It inspired me to dig out my red lipstick, which I bought after reading it in the first place, and gloss myself up. My boss said I looked cute! ;)

Deep Survival- Laurence Gonzales
First read 3 years ago.
Thoughts- Why does one person survive and another die during a disaster? Sometimes it's chance- picking seat A on a plane means the sliver of metal that missed you by inches killed someone else. But how do you deal with the disaster once you're in it? Do you, as the author so eloquently put it, "try to land the plan instead of the plane?" Or do you adapt to handle the moment?
Gonzales's interest in survival takes him from accident reports to survival schools and interviews with people who have lived through disasters ranging from plane crashes to falling off a mountain. A fascinating read.

How to Prepare for Your High School Reunion- Susan Allen Toth
First read +15 years ago.
Thoughts- I read this back when I was half the author's age, and I think I appreciate her essays more now than I did then. Now I get that nostalgia combined with relief that I'm no longer 20. They're thoughtful without being self-conscious. I like her pieces on writing, especially her essay on domestic writing. Some of the most profound stories I've read had no showy dramatics, no exotic scenes or steamy romances. They were about everyday life, and that was the draw. They were homely, in the comfortable sense. Her essays have that feeling. I also love her three travel books on England- one day I'm going to go!
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To Ride Pegasus- Anne McCaffrey
Reread, at least 15 years?

Thoughts- Not one of her best, but I kept thinking about it this last week so I finally decided to grab it at the library. It's an interesting universe, but I liked Petaybee better. Probably because it's set in an AU Alaska. I find the political implications and legal issues of psi power kind of fascinating. Maybe I'm a lawyer at heart? Terrifying thought.

The Lady- Anne McCaffrey
Reread, probably the same.

Thoughts- I think this is one of my favorite books of hers. It's one of the few non-fantasy novels she wrote, set in 1970's Ireland. If you like horses and teenage girls, you should like this one. I'm not really fond of the adultery subplots, though. I get that divorce wasn't an option then, but still. Not cool.
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Laura Ingalls Wilder Cookbook, by Barbara Walker
First read 20+ years ago
Thoughts- I love going back to this- the recipes are so yummy and she quotes so many of the great food passages from the series. I think I'm going to break down and try the apple turnovers from Farmer Boy this time.

Changes, by Mercedes Lackey
New, third book in her Collegium trilogy from the Valdemar universe
Thoughts- Pretty standard ML- the lead's a Gary Stu and everything's a little too perfect. The plot is interesting, though she's somewhat heavyhanded with her messages. I may buy this one in paperback, but I'm glad I checked it out of the library first. I didn't buy the second book because it dragged too much.

Mourning Gloria by Susan Wittig Albert
New, #19 in her China Bayles series
Thoughts- A good cozy mystery, especially if you enjoy herbs. China runs an herb shop in small-town Texas, complete with whacky friends and interesting plots. You don't need to read the books in sequence, I don't think. I like this series much better than her Darling series, which is set in small-town Depression-era Alabama. That one is too self-conscious. It feels like the author was trying too hard to be period.
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Courting Darkness by Yasmine Galenorn.
Darker than her usual run, but good. I've been curious about Smokey's mother!

John Buchan: A Biography by Janet Adam Smith
A scholarly and literary biography of a fascinating man. They don't write bios like this anymore, sadly.


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